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An “Altar”ed State Of Mind

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The tears come fast and hard.

Dreams and plans that have been whirling in my head threaten to come crashing down around me as the spinning plates of circumstance wobble above my head.

There are too many variables.  Too many things that have to fall into place.  Way too many “impossibilities” to count in order for these little scenarios to play out.

I am not in control.

Oh, how I hate this.  The not knowing.  The limbo.

My feet feel like they’re dangling just above ground, not close enough to touch, desperate to stand on solid ground.

I just want to know for sure.

And so I cry.  They are tears of exhaustion.   The kind of tears that say, “I just can’t take the suspense any more, and can’t bear the thought of the disappointment that might follow.”

My hands are sore from the death grip on this dream.  My mind hurts from the stress of anxiously trying to fit all the pieces of my fantasy’s puzzle together.

Is this God’s dream or mine? I wonder.

And like a flash, I see a boy named Isaac.

A boy who represented a father’s dream. The boy who was the depiction of a future for Abraham’s family line. 

This boy, promised by God, given by God, would be put on an altar of sacrifice.  I can’t even imagine the pain, the confusion, the utter devastation that must have overcome Abraham’s heart when God asked him to lay Isaac there.

I bet Abraham cried.

I bet he sobbed like there was no tomorrow.  Because, in essence, Isaac WAS his tomorrow.  His legacy.  Everything he wanted on this earth.

His dream on the altar.  In position to be killed, destroyed.

And at the last minute, when that axe was in the air aimed and ready, when Abraham was no doubt blind with tears of grief and loss, God said, “STOP!”

Because God didn’t want Isaac’s life.  He wanted Abraham’s heart.

The obedience, not the sacrifice.

Abraham got Isaac back that day. God’s dream WAS Abraham’s dream. Can you imagine the embrace that followed that relief?  The grateful heart that bent Abraham’s knees to the ground in humility and new-found faith?

So here it is, Jesus.  

My dream.  That thing that I want so badly it literally hurts.  I gently, and with great trembling, lay it down in that place where you can do what you want with it.  That vulnerable place with my axe in the air.

And I cry in this “altar”ed state of mind.

You may tell me “stop” and give my “Isaac” back.  Or you may require me to sacrifice my dream for Yours.  And if that is the case, then I will willing continue to sacrifice until our dreams line up.

Because you don’t want to kill my dream.  You want to win my heart….

1 Samuel 15:22 – 

But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

Matthew 26:39 – And going a little farther Jesus fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

 Genesis 22 – 

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.  But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

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Only Defense

Imagine this:

A wiry, hairy beast with arms longer than any ten foot pole that could keep him away.  Googly, bulging, bloodshot eyes and a slobbering tongue hanging from a mouth only half full of rotten yellow teeth.

His feet are narrow and flat, yet he jumps up and down, up and down with the enthusiasm of a smiling, but very ugly cheerleader.  His breath escapes noisily from both his nose and mouth and wreaks of death and yesterday’s fish.

He speaks, but his words are unintelligible, just a garbled mess of profanities and threats.

Overgrown, claw-like fingers point at you, poke you, until you think you’ll go mad from the incessant irritation.

Meet my FEAR.

He’s shown up today in his old familiar ways, badgering me with doubt, mocking me with anxious thoughts.  Just looking at him turns my stomach inside out and backwards.

And so I go to work in an effort to make him leave the building.

 – I paint.  And paint.  And paint.

 – I sing.  And sing.  And sing.

 – I clean like a fiend.

 – I read to ignore him.

 All of these weapons have proven helpless against him. 

He is crafty and knows that I will write to process and process to write to keep him at bay.  He is my resistance, the one who would hold me back from moving ahead in my thinking, in my growth and development, in my endeavors.

With one glance, he can paralyze me.

I wander aimlessly and look blankly ahead, with no clue what to do next.  And if he had his evil way, I would stay in that single spot on the floor, no better than I was yesterday.  No wiser.  No stronger.

 I bring out a weapon that I sadly seem to forget as often as he does.

It should have been my first defense, my automatic response.  But if it’s possible to be smaller than a mustard seed, my faith has found that minute measurement when FEAR comes around my corner.

Still, tiny as it is, it lifts its microscopic head.  It closes its bitty little eyes.  It folds those hands that are naked to any human eye.  And that nearly invisible faith speaks up and prays from that frightened place in my soul.

“BE STILL AND KNOW, ” I am reminded.

And like a noxious vapor, FEAR begins to dissipate and disappear all together.

Because God is God and FEAR is not.

Fear can fight against my chores and projects and creative attempts to silence him.  My reading and writing can’t fully tame his stomping or drown out his voice. Useless busy work doesn’t mask the smell of his breath in my face.

But when I am STILL AND KNOW, He has no recourse.

Anything less is powerless and anything more is unnecessary.

The only stone I need to pull from my bag is mustard seed of FAITH.

So small in comparison to the giant, but a sure shot right at his forehead, able to bring him down to the ground and kill him.

My air has cleared.  The chest pain and stomach pit are gone.  Fear has left the building as quickly as it came.  And until the next time he tries to show his ugly face, I will practice what I know to be true.

I will be still and know.

And my itty bitty mustard seed takes on the makings of a tree….

Psalm 46:10 – He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;”

1 Samuel 17:45-47 – David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin,but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lordsaves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

 

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When Wrong Makes A Right Turn

I showed up at the airport, blurry eyed and tired. Hubby had to drop me off on his way to work. Seven hours early for my flight to Seattle.  Time to sit and write and read to my heart’s content. Or so I thought.

As I handed the desk attendant my ID and confirmation number, I was greeted with a blank stare.  For fifteen minutes I stood there wondering why my name wasn’t showing up on his roster.  My beloved, worn leather computer satchel suddenly felt like a bag of lead on my shoulder when he looked at me and said,

“You were supposed to fly out yesterday.”

The satchel fell to the floor as it slid off of my suddenly sagging shoulders. What?  How could this be?

 I had plans.

A schedule to keep.

Other people counting on me.

And I sure as heck didn’t want to buy another ticket.

A black cloud made its way over my discouraged head.

But, as is often the case in life, a silver lining was about to expose itself in ways I couldn’t have known.  And it started with the next words that I didn’t expect.

“But it looks like I can get you on the next flight.”

A mere $25.00 later, I was power walking my way through security and on to a flight that wasn’t supposed to be mine.

Now considered a standby passenger, I had to wait for my seat assignment until everyone else had boarded.  And as I made my way through that crowded plane,

I was just glad that seat 6D had my name on it.

That is, until I got there.

One little mama with two toddlers, one of whom was in MY seat.  Carefully and gently, I looked at this already weary woman and said,

“I think this is my seat.”

This bit of information didn’t sit well with either mama or 15-month-old daughter, who fiercely clung to this now popular seat and cried like a hurt puppy when her mother brought her over to her lap.

The snide comment and cold resistance that followed left my attempt at friendly conversation frozen in mid air.  All I could think was,

This is going to be the longest hour forty-five in flight history.

At this point, said toddler was now poking me and no doubt calling me names in her baby talk gibberish. I prepared myself to go to that happy place in my mind where frustration and irritation and even dark clouds couldn’t touch me.  Not even with it’s grubby and angry little baby hands.

Enter, a little more silver lining.

Right before take off, a man came and stood next to me.  It was apparent that this was daddy to this bunch.  He announced that his seating assignment was right behind them.

Irritated mommy suddenly looked crestfallen as her children climbed all over her.  But I was smiling.

This was my chance for escape.

I offered my seat to this very thankful man and agreed to take his seat in the next row. The once aggravated mother now smiled at me for the first time.  Somehow it suddenly didn’t matter to me that I had traded for a middle seat between two strangers.

Turns out, seat 7E was exactly where God wanted me.

The silver was growing.

I tested the waters of conversation potential by greeting the woman next to the window. I could tell by her sweet smile and response that meaningful interaction was going to take place for the next hour and a half.

And it did. In ways I can’t even explain. Miraculous, deep, mysterious ways. Connection. Encouragement. Soul chat.

God orchestrated a purposeful meeting through my “wrong place, wrong time” mistake. 

Wrong day.

Wrong flight.

Wrong seat.

Right where I needed to be.

Wrong suddenly took a sharp turn to the Right.

Black clouds gave way to silver linings.

God does that all the time, even when we don’t have the eyes to see it.

He takes our mistakes, our failures and the things that seem to be going all wrong and uses them to construct something that is better, stronger, more meaningful than we ever could have dreamed.

Our black clouds of discouragement carry silver linings of purpose when we ask Him for the eyes to see it. 

Sometimes what we see as “wrong” is the beginning of His “right”.

Are you discouraged, frustrated, defeated by circumstances or situations?  Are you viewing them as problems instead of opportunities?

 – Do you feel like you’re a “day late”?

 – On the wrong “flight”?

 – In the wrong “seat”?

What specific thing can you name that you want to look at differently?  Just one thing.

Look a little closer at that black cloud.  Can you see a hint of silver?

Isaiah 55:9 – For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (From His vantage point, all He can see is the silver!)

Isaiah 40:28 – Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

James 1:2-4 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 

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Going To War

(Everyone has something worth fighting for.  We just have to figure it out and do it…)

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I stood in front of the mirror this morning in just my skivvies.

Normally I wouldn’t do this before putting my contacts in or my glasses on, to avoid the obvious.

But this time I saw it all with 20/20 vision.  Five feet two inches of stretch marks, age spots and crepping skin.  And instead of hurriedly putting my clothes on to once again spare my eyes from time’s reality, I stood firm, looking straight into that image before me and flexed both arms.

Of all the descriptions that could have graced my lips and for the first time in my life, as I saw that image, only one word came to mind:

Warrior.

Because here’s what I know:

 – Stretch marks come from growth and birth.

 – Age spots come with wisdom and experience.

 – Creping is what happens to soft things like silk and cotton, things that represent beauty and warmth.

I have known great pain, great loss, great grief within my great love, great joy, great life.

I am a warrior with battle wounds that have prepared me for my next fight.  

This time the war is against fear itself, against (to coin a phrase from my new favorite author, Steven Pressfield) “The Resistance” that would hold me back from a glorious new adventure that calls me – the profession (no longer hobby) of writing.

I can learn from the training methods of The Few and The Proud.

They start with boot camp. Marine Corps sergeant describes it like this:

The most important single thing to know about boot camp is that it is 100% designed to reprogram children and civilians into warriors.It places within them a sense that they are expected to do important things…You have to train 18 year olds to run to the sound of gunfire and perform under fire and the threat of death.  – Jon Davis, Sergeant, Iraq Veteran and Weapons Instructor

In my battle against fear of and in my new venture, there are things that have had to happen in preparation for my retraining.

Reprogramming requires ELIMINATION.

New recruits into the Marines give up everything they’ve known to be part of something bigger.  This symbolically shows up with their first haircut. They are required to give up their civilian clothing, belongings and attitudes.

 As one recruit put it: “They’re trying to strip you down to something they can work with.”

In order for my thinking to change, to be fight worthy, I need to root out some things that are standing in the way of that happening. This past year has been one of elimination, both voluntary and required.

God has removed things and so have I.

 – From my closet – getting rid of the excess that just sits there and makes decisions more difficult

 – From my diet – removing (or at least reducing!) foods that cause pain, fogginess and overall toxic effects on my body

 – From my mind – discontinuing habits and ways of thinking that were either harmful or, at the very least, not helpful.

 – From my life – decluttering my days of the “urgent” and replacing it with only the important.

 Figuring out that just because I CAN doesn’t mean I SHOULD.  This has been boot camp.

Reprogramming requires RECEIVING.

After boot camp is finished, intensive mental and physical training can continue.  The Marine’s mind and body are ready for what comes next. There is a clean and healthy slate to work with. Now focus can happen and things can be retained.

In order for me to move forward in new thinking, I need to be willing to learn.  As my “cleaning out” has left sweet empty space, I’ve found room for new ideas, better ways of doing things, instructions for next steps.

This requires openness to input.

 – To the expertise of others – soaking in the wisdom of those who have gone before me – God, family, friends, mentors.

 – To the counsel of other writers – reading and taking copious notes from those who have both the creative knowledge and professional experience I crave.

 – To the critique and constructive criticism of those I trust and respect.

I must trust that the good, the bad and the ugly that I receive are true gifts – my training.

Reprogramming requires hard work and dedication.

The motto of the Marines is Semper Fidelis, or “always faithful”. It depicts their work ethic, their commitment and their loyalty to the mission at hand, each other, the Corps and their nation, regardless of the situation.  They are in this heart and soul.

Any elimination, anything I receive is worth nothing if I’m not willing to follow it up with good old fashioned work.

I have to combine my creative effort with hard core discipline.

 – I must trade my couch for my upright writing chair and desk.

 – I must turn off my outer distractions so that I only hear my “muse” music and see the canvas of my screen.

 – I must do it every single day.  In some capacity.  I must make the time.

 – I must push past my comfort zones and daily try to implement new learning.

 – I must face every day as an opportunity to stand, well armed, in the face of the enemy of fear.

 I must treat this new endeavor with a Semper Fidelis attitude.

Whether they live or die, Marines are heroes because they fight, they face the enemy and use everything they are and have to defeat him.  They represent something bigger than themselves.

Whether I succeed or fail, I will be a warrior because I fought.  I gave it my all.  I stood up to fear and robbed it of its power.

WARRIOR.

Stretch marks, age spots, chicken neck and all…. :-)

*Side Note:  If you feel stuck, restless, or like you are supposed to be doing something you’re afraid of, please read the book I’m reading right now (Thanks, Laura!): The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  It’s definitely not just for artists.  Extremely helpful in battling the “resistance” that gets in the way.

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Reading Between Their Lines

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(As I look in the mirror and find that time is having its way with me, I am more aware than ever of the wisdom that comes with age and a life of experience, as our “outward appearance” fades.  I am more and more drawn to the wisdom that came before me in the form of character marked faces and bent frames.  This is for the precious souls that have so very much to share with us if we will just take the time to listen and savor their stories.)

My pages are wrinkled, the edges are curled

The wear on my spine shows my time in this world.

My cover is bent, my title erased

My story, now old, will soon be replaced.

But if you would just listen, just look deep inside

You’d read this aged book, not cast me aside.

Take in every word, dust it off, let it shine.

If only you’d read between all these lines.

History lives in the now yellowed print

Stories and poems between dust and lint.

Tales of love, both lost and won

Tragedies, many. Victories, some.

Wisdom resides with every page turned

Columns of advice from hard lessons learned.

So, please, come and listen. Look deep inside

Study this book, don’t cast it aside.

Take in every word, dust it off, let it shine.

If only you’d read between all these lines.

My time is soon coming, I’ll return to the shelf

A once vibrant saga now left to myself.

Will my story live on?  Will you tell it for me?

When I’m long gone, will you help me still be?

When this book closes I hope you’ll have known

That my words had some meaning in these syllables sown.

Because you came and listened. You looked deep inside

You studied this book, didn’t cast it aside.

Took in every word, wiped it off, let it shine.

You took time to read between all these lines.

2 Corinthians 4:16 – Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

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When Imperfect Is The Perfect Place To Be

I just stopped trying.

More out of necessity than desire.  Fatigue, rather than conscious choice, dictated the decision.

I just couldn’t do it any more.

This wasn’t (isn’t) an easy transition for a self-proclaimed (and defamed) perfectionist.  Don’t let my carefree exterior fool you.  Between these stick out ears a war has waged for half a century between what is and what could be.  What I “should” be lined up against what I am.  Between my mind’s fairytale and the stark reality of true life.

And every single time my far fetched expectations were shattered.

No matter how bad I wanted it, worked for it and at it, no matter the plans crafted in my delusional mind that fell flat on the “perfect” scale.  And every time I thought, if I just try a little harder, if I just tweak this or that, it will happen!

And 10 seconds later I would land on my face, circumstances would take a sharp turn or real life would interrupt my fantasy.

I’ve battled the perfection monster for 51 years and I finally just got tired of feeling defeated.

And my weary mind thought:  

MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, IMPERFECTION IS EXACTLY WHERE I’M MEANT TO BE

Maybe the mess is actually a glorious breeding ground for miracles.  What if my shortcomings go long in highlighting Jesus’ ability to still make flat water into the finest wine?  What if the best laid plans that lie in a heap on my unswept floor serve as fodder for lessons and growth and encouragement for others?

Don’t get me wrong.  This is not lazy living.  Not an excuse to rest in complacency.

I will still strive for excellence.  It’s what Jesus asks of me:

1 Corinthians 10:31 – So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Colossians 3:17, 23 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…

Romans 12:11 – Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

I will give everything I am to everything I do.  BUT I will be okay if it isn’t perfect, if life doesn’t look exactly like the distorted dream that my heart had too long clung to.

My plans may fail.  Life may go in a direction that doesn’t line up with this dreamer’s fanciful notion.  I will not be in control of the world and situations and people around me that will affect my daily reality.  And that’s all right.

Because I hear that Jesus has a plan. That He passionately and purposefully gathers pieces of brokenness and shards of imperfection and mixes them with forgiveness and healing and hope and creates a brilliant masterpiece of colorful, thrown away glass that comes to resemble a window through which He can shine.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 – Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Things might look different than I had imagined.  It may turn out that my idea of perfection was never really perfect at all. Because all that needs to show is Him and His perfection.

And I can live with that.

So my sighs are now expressions of relief instead of frustration.  My vision is beginning to change as I see the possibilities that spring out of imperfection and the opportunities that are birthed when my little broken meets the Hands of His big perfect.

What will we let Jesus do today with our less than perfect schedules, relationships, plans, jobs?  Will we let the mask of virtual perfection slide off our faces and out of our minds and let imperfection have it’s beautiful way with us?

Meet Jesus in the imperfect and just watch what He can do in and through you.

Amazing.

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Shades of Red

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Sometimes I’m relieved to know that I’m wrong.

 – That I don’t have to know all the answers.

– That I’m not required to be the morality police for others.

– That my greatest responsibility stops with this:

LOVE.

Jesus didn’t include “being right” in the top two list of most important things.

When asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was, this was His response:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”

Of all of the things He could have chosen from, He chose LOVE.

Because everything else hinges off of love.  The way we act and think and treat others all stems from our ability to love.

LOVE even gets greater standing than FAITH and HOPE.

Check out 1 Corinthians 13 again:

 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

LOVE MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

 – Not the clanging cymbal of my “wise” words.

 – Not the resounding gong of my self-righteous attitude.

 – Not all the stuff I get right.

 – Not my “correct” opinions or preferences.

 – Not even my spiritual knowledge.

Over the Valentine’s Day weekend, many were worried about “Shades of Gray”.  But what if we concerned ourselves more with the “shade of red” that marks our lives?

What if we were so consumed with the debt of loving Jesus and others that we refuse to let these distractions become wedges that cork a properly bleeding heart?

The reality of Jesus’ blood should so stain my life that the only red I should see is His forgiveness and grace.  When people look at me they should see not a person who is always right, but who always, always loves.

I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t always know what is right in any given situation.  My opinions will not always be correct, even if I’m passionate about a topic or issue.  And even if I do know, and if by some chance I am right, I don’t always know the best way to communicate that in a way that is beneficial.

But I know what is NEVER wrong.

LOVE.

And that, I can do…. :-)

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Brown Sugar Goodness

I know this is a little late for Valentine baking, but these are seriously the best sugar cookies ever!  It started with a Pinterest recipe that I had to modify because I didn’t have all the ingredients. I took them to our small group this week and got so many happy mouths raving that I decided to share the wealth.  So this is my version, including the “brown sugar instead of white” change.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!

Brown Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

1 C Butter (room temperature)

3/4 C Vegetable Oil

1 1/4 C Brown Sugar

3/4 C Powdered Sugar

2 T Water

2 Eggs

2 tsp Vanilla

1 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Salt

5 1/2 C Flour

Sour Cream Frosting

1/2 cup room temperature butter

3/4 C Sour Cream

A 1 lb Package of Powdered Sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

Red Food Coloring

The great thing about these cookies is that, unlike regular sugar cookies, you don’t need to roll them out.  Just roll dough into balls and put on cookie sheet.  Then dip the bottom of a drinking glass in sugar and flatten the ball down.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes (don’t over bake!).

Let cool and then refrigerate cookies.

Slather with the creamy, dreamy frosting and enjoy!

 

 

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YOU ARE LOVED….

“Will You Be Mine?”

Said the Sacred Romancer.

The Lover of Our Souls.

The One who holds us in the shadow of His wings.

The One who calls us the apple of His eye.

Who refers to us as Beloved.

And asks for our hearts in marriage.

Our Prince HAS come.

Happy Valentine’s Day.  For Real.

Song of Solomon 6:3 – I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine…

Ephesians 5:25 – For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.

Zechariah 2:8 – …whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye…

Psalm 91:4 – He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

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When Good Gets Broken

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 Sometimes our good gets broken.

And we find ourselves left with pieces we don’t know what to do with.  

I have a favorite mug.  My “GOOD MORNING” mug.  I love everything about this mug.

 – It feels good in my hands.

 – It’s the perfect size for a big cup of coffee.

 – it has been part of every morning’s quiet/writing time.

 – And it offers a happy message to start each day off right.

And yesterday it broke.

I nearly cried as I saw the slow motion tumble from the cabinet followed by a crash as it hit the granite countertop.  It all fell apart.

How would my mornings ever be the same?

It was suddenly purposeless.  Just a heap of broken glass.  A detached handle and a useless half mug with sharp edges.  If I tried to use it, I would get burned or cut myself.

There was nothing left to do but throw it away.

But wait.

Maybe there was more to be had from this brokenness.

I whipped out my phone and took a picture.

This was analogy material.

And suddenly, my cup once again held purpose and meaning.

MY GOOD WAS BROKEN, BUT THE BROKEN WAS GOOD!

And Jesus started speaking….

Anything that I have that is “good”, whether it’s my situation, my plans, my integrity, my relationships, has the potential to experience brokenness at some point.

And while we’re being honest, let’s admit that most of us have experienced that brokenness in at least one of these (or other) areas.

It’s called LIFE.

We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world, so moments and seasons of shatter are inevitable.  We experience the pain, the disappointment and the discouragement that comes so naturally after our good has fallen to bits.

Consequentially, our hearts also break.

Purpose seems lost, usefulness unlikely.  We can’t find the reason so we assume the only place for the pieces is in the trash.  Thrown away and hopefully forgotten.

But what if Jesus has a plan for our broken good?

What if the fallout and it’s residual shards are something He wants to use to make something beautiful?  What if He shows us what He can do with our broken hearts, making them stronger than ever?  What if the reduction, the loss, actually causes growth and depth and new insight and significance?

Every part of Jesus’ good was broken for us.

His body, heart, mind and soul all took indescribable beatings for our healing and salvation.  He was reduced to humiliation, betrayal, denial and death for us.  Our good Jesus was broken beyond recognition.

The world looked on and thought the only place for such brokenness was a GRAVE.

Three days later, true life came back to our planet, available to all.

GOOD WAS BROKEN AND THAT BROKEN WAS REALLY, REALLY GOOD.

When we put our broken in Jesus’ hands, He does amazing things.  He writes stories and crafts miracles.  He uses our shattered bits to touch and encourage and influence others who need to know their brokenness can be healed and used for good, too.

Romans_8_28_by_cherriezoey

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